Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Truong Son talks to Vietnam Economics Times about a draft Law on Alcohol Harm Prevention that is ready for the National Assembly to discuss in May.
|Nguyen Truong Son|
How urgently do we need to implement the Law on Alcohol Harm Prevention?
The Ministry of Health (MOH) has been busy preparing the Law on Alcohol Harm Prevention. It is common knowledge that wine and beer are important issues. The health sector has already written a draft law on alcohol harm prevention. According to international rankings, the consumption of wine and beer in Vietnam is very high. Since 2015, the amount of alcohol consumed by an average Vietnamese person has increased by nearly 30 per cent.
The volume of wine and alcohol produced in the country has been on the rise versus a reduction in other countries. The negative impacts of wine and beer has been proven by international scientists as one of the main causes of disease. Some 30 diseases are directly related to alcohol and beer, including lung disease, digestive disorders, gastrointestinal ulcers and liver cancer. Last but not least, drinking is the main cause of road accidents and domestic violence.
What steps have been proposed under the Law on Alcohol Harm Prevention?
The Law on Alcohol Harm Prevention has three main objectives.
First, to curtail opening times for beverage shops. The law would also ban the sale or drinking of wine and beer in public offices.
Second, the law will ask the Government to impose higher taxes on wine and beer.
And third, to develop new policies to curtail the negative impacts of alcohol towards the final goal of good health and raise the living standards of Vietnamese people.
How do you respond to the counter-argument raised by the Viet Nam Association of Beer, Wine and Beverage that a tax increase will have negative impacts on production?
While we were drafting the law, the Ministry of Health tried to curtail its negative impacts on the production of beer, wine and beverages. The ministry has emphasised the importance of preventing teenagers under 18 from buying/selling alcohol online or in advertisements. Lessons learned from the US have shown that if we can limit sales of alcohol, it will benefit everyone.
Has the Ministry of Health faced any challenges in the course of drawing up the law?
In the course of writing the draft law we have visited many provinces to talk with the people. Many of them support our idea of banning the sale of alcohol next to schools and hospitals.
However, we should look at the positive side of the law as National Assembly deputies discuss it next month.